About 20 years ago, I was working out a lot. My partner and I joined a gym, and as a part of our new membership, we were required to go through a fitness assessment. Frank went first, and he got a fitness trainer that was incredibly easy on him. I am pretty sure she was a cheerleader and thought that two sits ups were cause for celebration.
I went for my assessment the next day. My trainer was a former marine.
As marines are known to do, he pushed me and pushed me hard. During the time we were together, we chatted quite a bit when I wasn’t coughing up bits of lung tissue. I told him how I had just purchased a house in the suburb we were in and that I worked in the city.
“I grew up here. But things have changed. This town isn’t the same anymore. We’re being overrun by mocha-drinking, cellphone-talking, SUV-driving moms with perfect manicures and judgmental minds. They’re all as comfortable as can be.”
“I think I pulled something in my leg,” I said.
“You’ll live,” he replied.
He told me how he was moving away from the Chicago suburbs and to the Pacific Northwest to escape the decline of civilization as he knew it. “Comfort zones kill,” he said. “And these people here are all as good as dead.”
A well-lived life
I have to admit, I like a comfortable life. I live a comfortable life. I have a beautiful home in a beautiful place, a wonderful family, and good friends. Sure, I have to drive 60 minutes to get to civilization, but it’s worth it for the daily experience of waking up in Mount Shasta every morning. I have the best of all worlds, and I am pretty happy with my life.
It’s an easy place to get comfortable.
And I am. I have been.
When we get comfortable and secure, we tend to erect patterns and structures of protection to keep us in that comfort zone. We stop stretching, challenging, and pushing. It’s an incredibly first-world problem, yes, but it is a problem that our modern comforts and accoutrements tend to create for us.
And it’s killing us.
All we are is change
Being comfortable and secure is not the natural order of things. That marine that pushed me out of my physical comfort zones gave me a huge gift that day, a wake up call to never let myself get too comfortable. But here I am, again, getting comfortable with what is and not really wanting to grow or change.
Growth is all we are, however. All we are is change. And if we’re getting too comfortable, we’re losing out on a part of who we are. We lose out on our expansion. We lose out on joy.
The more comfortable and content I have allowed myself to become, the more I stopped wanting. I stopped feeling much desire to do anything, including the things that really excite me. I lost a sense of creativity and inspiration that comes with feeling hungry for something more.
I started creating some of those structures and patterns to keep things just as they are. I didn’t want change, even though I know intellectually this principle that all we are is change. It became apparent that the amount of effort to keep things just as they are is equal to the amount of effort it takes to grow and change. The world keeps changing, and if I am comfortable with where I am and want to keep things as they are, I still have to exert effort to keep static in the face of the change that is ubiquitous in our world.
Luckily, we don’t live in a vacuum. Sometimes things happen. Wake up calls, enlightenment, awakenings… we get a message. Something unconscious in us recognizes that we’ve become our own worst enemy and it shakes us up a little, destroying some of the structures we’ve created to keep everything just the way it is.
I’ve had a few of those, but I still haven’t wanted to give up where I am. So, the wake up calls get a little louder. Change is going to happen, whether you choose the change or not.
Comfort zones kill. So I choose change.
Part of that comfort was being happy enough with hiking my standard route every morning. When I got the message about comfort zones again, I ran. It hurt. I used to run all the time, but running is one of those activities that is never very comfortable so I stopped. And I got a little too comfortable, and I lost my ability to run long distances again. So, I am running again.
Mark started pushing me in different ways, too. Putting myself out there more, and not worrying what other people think. Taking pictures of myself and putting them on social media. Writing again, even if it isn’t all that great. I’m even going to start with podcasting and vidcasting.
Why do all of this? I explain a little in the podcast I recorded this weekend. The world needs our voices, and the world needs our expansion. This is no time for comfort zones.